W-League stars predict the grand final

Who better to preview the Westfield W-League grand final than some of the best players in the league? Melissa Barbieri, Elise Kellond-Knight, Tanya Oxtoby, and Ash Brown have given us their thoughts on this season’s final match.

Who better to preview the Westfield W-League grand final than some of the best players in the league? Melissa Barbieri, Elise Kellond-Knight, Tanya Oxtoby, and Ash Brown have given us their thoughts on this season-s final match.

Melissa Barbieri

Canberra-s strengths

Canberra has a very quick front three, with overlapping runs from left and right backs that are also quick. Not to mention the likes of Michelle Heyman, who is a great finisher.

Her teammates give her countless opportunities to score because of their play, and her runs make it easy for them to play her good balls. With Lydia Williams, Ellie Brush, and Caitlin Cooper, Canberra's defence is tight and extremely difficult to penetrate.

Brisbane-s strengths Brisbane possess similar pace up front, but they are more dangerous through the middle of park courtesy of the runs of Aivi Luik and Tameka Butt.

Their three up front make smart runs to break down defences. They also have a bench that can come on and really add to the game, with Emily Gielnik, who has owned the role of super sub.

This is a great quality to have in a sub, someone who knows their role, because when they come on they know they are as important as if they started the game instead of worrying about and getting down about the fact that they aren-t starting.

How/where can Canberra break Brisbane down? Using their overlapping full backs to overload wide areas and get quality crosses in to their strikers. Although Brisbane do not struggle for pace, it will be better for Canberra to make the most of their speed by using that to pull players out of position and getting players in behind the defence.

The midfield need to hold out Luik and Butt, but with Sally Shipard and Grace Gill very defensively minded, it shouldn-t be a problem.

How/where can Brisbane break Canberra down? Brisbane will need to dominate through the middle of the park. Centre midfield need to make runs that break lines and get defence unsure of who needs to follow who, which will open up lines for balls to be played through. I think if they play wide, they may find it hard to beat Ashleigh Sykes and Taryn Hemmings. They are better off trying to pull Brush or Cooper out of position and get in behind them.

Which players will be key? In a final every player will be key, but I think each line needs to have a strong head and someone in each line to keep it all together. So the centre backs, centre midfield, keeper, and main striker. I hate to name people because every one of the players out there is critical to the win.

What-s one thing about each of these teams fans don-t know but should? Canberra may come out with a lot of nerves. A lot of young players with big roles may find themselves getting lost in the game and that can be critical to the team-s success. Brisbane have played in every grand final since the league started and hold more Westfield Matildas than Canberra, so you may find they come out really strong and confident.

Who will you be cheering for? I don-t know who I cheer for until the game starts. I-m serious—it-s not a cop out. I have friends in both teams, but I would like to see Canberra take their first championship. I think they have had a season that deserves that.

Who do you think will get up? Canberra if they can play like they have all season

Score prediction? Extra time goal, 2-1 to Canberra

Elise Kellond-Knight

Canberra-s strengths?

Canberra has been consistent all season and I don-t expect things to change this weekend in the grand final. They have strengths all over the park from goal scorers capable of producing at any time, full backs that like to get forward, midfield players that are comfortable on the ball, and a spider-like goalkeeper.

Brisbane-s strengths? Brisbane has had a troubled season with up-and-down performances combined with a disproportionate amount of serious injuries; however, the team has adapted and shown true spirit to progress to the grand final, combating adversity.

The team-s strengths are perseverance and coming up with a result under pressure. Brisbane-s semi final performance is not indicative of their capabilities, and I expect a big turnaround by this Saturday. Their previous grand final experience will hold them in good stead with the combination of many high-quality players.

How/where can Canberra break Brisbane down? If Canberra can find space out wide and capitalise on the pace of their wingers, they will cause the Brisbane-s defence problems. Their overlapping fullbacks will also cause Brisbane-s wingers to be a little more defensively minded.

How/where can Brisbane break Canberra down? Brisbane should look to play through midfield and exploit the difference in speed and agility of the two teams- central players. Luik and Butt are both quick-footed and comfortable on the ball. Brisbane-s wingers need to play with confidence and look to get involved and cause Canberra-s fullbacks problems early on.

Which players will be key? Brisbane: Butt, Gielnik, Luik Canberra: Heyman, Williams, Shipard

What-s one thing about each of these teams fans don-t know but should? Canberra will have an extreme advantage playing at home with their green, vocal support. I know from past seasons it has been very intimidating.

Who will you be cheering for? Silly question. Brisbane!

Who do you think will get up? Canberra with a comeback by Brisbane.

Score predictions? Noncommittal. I would be biased, so we'll wait and see.

Tanya Oxtoby

Canberra-s strengths?

Canberra-s attacking play is a feature of their game, and if they have dominate possession of the ball they will be sure to dictate play. The way they make the pitch big and utilise the width to get crosses into the box is something that every team in the league has struggled to deal with this season. And with Heyman always in a position to score from these forays forward, it-s going to massive strength for them on the weekend.

Brisbane-s strengths? They seem to find a way to win even when they aren-t particularly playing that well, which is what good teams do!

How/where can Canberra break Brisbane down? With the way they use the width of the pitch to move their opponents around and create opportunities.

How/where can Brisbane break Canberra down? If Brisbane can absorb the pressure from Canberra, the area they can hurt them is on the counter attack. If Brisbane can break quickly and utilise their pace up front before Canberra can get numbers back behind the ball, they will be in with a good shot at putting Canberra on the back foot!

Which players will be key? Obviously Heyman for Canberra, she always seems to get herself into a position to score goals, as well as a strong performance from Williams in goals. For Brisbane, the ‘super sub- Gielnik will be important when she gets her opportunity, as well as their full backs to shut down Canberra-s attacking options.

Who will you be cheering for? Canberra! They have been the best team all year and deserve to finish off the season on top.

Who do you think will get up? It will be a tight one, but I think Canberra have more attacking options and will be more dangerous going forward

Score prediction? 2-1

Marijana Rajcic (who answered these questions at extremely short notice—thanks Marijana!)

Canberra-s strengths?

Definitely their attack and midfield and their possession game.

Brisbane-s strengths? I would say their midfield as well. It could be a battle of the midfield.

How/where can Canberra break Brisbane down? With a quick counter and just faster movement in the front third. I think Canberra have more pace up front.

How/where can Brisbane break Canberra down? Prevent Sally Shippard dictating play and keep the ball away from Canberra as long as possible.

Which players will be key? For Canberra definitely Michelle Heyman and Sally Shippard. And Brisbane, Tameka Butt and Polks for sure.

Who will you be cheering for? Who do you think will get up? Score prediction? Probably Canberra just because they-ve been the best team all year. 2-1, I reckon.

Ash Brown

Canberra-s strengths?

Canberra play really well as a team, combine well, and have good combination play all over the pitch. Their set plays are also quite dangerous.

Brisbane-s strengths? Brisbane has dangerous forwards but their biggest strength is their experience; they-ve been in this position every season and know what it takes to win.

How/where can Canberra break Brisbane down? Best bet for Canberra is simply to do what they did against us: push to the end and fight the whole game. They are consistent and never give up, therefore there are no lapses and they are very difficult to come out on top of.

How/where can Brisbane break Canberra down? Brisbane will create chances, but they need to make the most of their opportunities. If they can capitalise on every opportunity they make then they-ll win.

Which players will be key? Shipard for Canberra creates heaps of chances with her precision passes. If Brisbane want to win they have to shut her down. For Brisbane, Butt is dangerous on ball and creates scoring opportunities for both herself and her teammates.

What-s one thing about each of these teams fans don-t know but should? During our Westfield Young Matilda-s 2011 Vietnam tour, we went for a walk and Vedrana Popovic challenged a local to a hip-hop dance-off. For the record, ‘Vee- won, so Roar fans need to urge her to bust a move if they win on the weekend.

On the same tour, Shipard joined us in camp and before our final match made an amazing motivational video for all the young players. It was great for a pump-up with photos and inspiring words. You can guarantee she would have done the same for Canberra and the grand final, so if the Green Machine win you can put it down to her.

Who will you be cheering for? I have no strong preference for either team, so I-ll be happy with anyone winning.

Who do you think will get up?

Score prediction? 2-1